To make the most of your retirement, retirement counselors advise:
Take time now to find out how much you can expect from Social Security and your company's pension. What happens if you're fired, you quit or decade to retire early? Will your income meet your estimated spending needs? If not, act now to correct the situation.
Consider a balanced investment program, says Action for Independent Maturity, to add to pension and Social Security income: "To help maintain your standard of living and, equally important, give you more freedom to enjoy life." Among possibilities: stocks, bonds, mutual funds, annuities, real estate. Update your investments annually to keep abreast of new developments in the economy.
If you're not covered by a pension plan, says AIM, look into setting up an Individual Retirement Account (IRA). Or if yo are self-employed, consider a Keogh account to put away tax-deferred money on your own for retirement.
"Make an honest appraisal of your retirement goals," says AIM."Do they include travel, new hobbies or other costly pursuits." Also, "are you going to miss the daily routine and the business contacts?" If so, you may want to prepare for a post-retirement job.
Reduce your debt as retirement approaches. Replace aging appliances, complete major home repairs and make large purchases while you're still on the payroll.
Attend your firm's, or outside pre-retirement workshops. Read up on what to expect. "We have heard of many cases," says AIM's Albert Peterson, "where high-level execs who are wedded to their work have more trouble adjusting than blue-collar workers."
Plan for the useof your time. "It's equally as important as money or health," says Peterson, to avoid falling into a feeling of uselessness. "Gardens, guzzling, golg and the Boob Tube -- those things get tiring after awhile."
Get your estate in order "for prudent use of your assets during the rest of your life," says AIM, and to minimize the tax bite for heirs. Make a will.
Make a special effort in your middle years to keep your body in shape. "Lots of people," says Peterson, "have become desk-bound."
If you can, rehearse your retirement. One couple who tried to live a month on their anticipated Social Security "gave up in two weeks," says Peterson.
A lot of people, he says, "almost have to be shoved into the fact that they can enjoy their later years even better than their life so far -- if they prepare for it. It they don't, they could drift and wind up with a lot of problems.
"It's a matter of personal choice and decision."